Birkin coffee

Ms. HalfEmpty at Birkin, her favorite coffee shop in Buenos Aires.

Those of you who know me know that I love coffee. Even this blog was inspired by a coffee mug! In 2011, I embarked on a Quest for Passion and discovered that my passions are coffee and napping. Undoubtedly, coffee is an important part of my life.

Mr. HalfFull and I received the Keurig B70 Platinum Brewing System as a wedding gift six years ago.  The Keurig made coffee quick and easy. I never had to measure water, and Mr. HalfFull could have his weak brew, while I enjoyed my concentrated java.

I know there are a lot of people who poo-poo the Keurig and are infuriated by the amount of waste caused by K-Cups. But I rarely used K-Cups. Instead, I ground whole beans and packed my own reusable pod. The Keurig machine was merely an automated way to quickly get hot water in the correct quantity.

Death of the Keurig

On a recent morning when I turned to my trusty Keurig for my morning coffee, it was dead. The LCD display was blank; not even the time greeted me. I tried other outlets to no avail. The Keurig was a goner.

Unfortunately, I had no other coffee makers on hand. Long ago, we donated our drip coffee machine because we never make coffee for a large group and don’t have a lot of extra storage space. Recently, we also donated our electric kettle because the Keurig could produce hot water. So I had a coffee dilemma.

Of course, I could go to a coffee shop. But that’s not convenient to do twice a day, as my coffee intake requirements dictate.

What Would a Brewmaster Do?

Ms. HalfEmpty @ Dolcezza

Ms. HalfEmpty enjoying an espresso drink at our local Dolcezza.

I first experienced pour-over coffee in 2012, as a way to showcase high quality beans for a single serving of coffee. Previously, I had never seen coffee bloom, and I wondered if I was missing out on this with drip coffee or a Keurig. I didn’t wonder enough to change my brewing method at home, but I considered it.

Dolcezza Factory in DC

The owner of Dolcezza chatting with an employee during the coffee class at their factory in DC.

About a week before the Keurig died, Mr. HalfFull and I attended a coffee class. We learned about the processes for making coffee from tree to table. We also experienced cupping with beans at various points in the roasting process to taste the different flavor profiles. Finally, we watched demos and tasted the results of a few brewing methods.

Was the timing of the coffee class serendipitous to get me thinking about brew methods again? Now that my beloved Keurig was dead, what brewing method should I select?

Of course, I could buy a new Keurig, but all the electronics and sitting water lead to problems. I did go to the store to look at new coffee tools and wasn’t completely satisfied with the options. But ordering something online would take time. How would I survive in the meantime???

Necessity is the Mother of Invention

Without a Keurig, drip coffee machine, or any other specific coffee-making contraption, I set out to brew coffee in my own coffee lab. I only used materials I had on hand and tried to brew the perfect cup. This was my method:

  1. Grind whole coffee beans.
    • I already did this with my previous Keurig method.
  2. Measure freshly ground coffee.
    • This part is also exactly the same as my Keurig method. I always filled my reusable pod because I enjoy a strong brew.
    • measure coffee
  3. Transfer ground coffee to the bottom of a container with a pour spout.
    • Dry Coffee Grounds
  4. Microwave 6 ounces of filtered water with a toothpick in the container.
    • When I used the Keurig machine, I would always use the smallest cup size, which was 4 ounces. From the images on the machine, this size is meant for iced coffee. But I always drank this size hot because the bigger sizes tasted too watered down to me. So you might be asking why I specify heating 6 ounces rather than 4. Since the pour over method allows the coffee to bloom, it’s stronger and more flavorful. Plus, 4 ounces really isn’t much water to work with.
    • What about the toothpick? Since I was heating water in the microwave in a smooth glass measuring cup, I added a toothpick to avoid superheating.
    • heat water
  5. Pour a bit of hot water on the grounds until they are wet and watch the bloom.
    • The bloom is a release of carbon dioxide exhibited by bubbles on the surface of the grounds. This generally takes about 30 seconds.
    • coffee bloom
  6. Pour the rest of the water on the grounds and wait 4 minutes.
    • brewing coffee
  7. Place the reusable K-Cup on the edge of the mug.
    • K-Cup on mug
  8. Pour the brewed coffee into the reusable K-Cup to filter out the grounds.
    • This is where I had to get a little creative since I didn’t have a French press or a cone. Instead, I used my old reusable K-Cup. I set it on the edge of my mug and poured the brewed coffee through it. Since the K-Cup is so small, I had to pour slowly and wait for the liquid to filter through before adding more. It’s a little messy especially if the pour spout is not precise. But it’s better than nothing!
    • filter out coffee grounds

Trial and Error

cover coffee

Adding a lid helped retain some heat.

My method did produce flavorful coffee, but temperature was a problem. After sitting for 4 minutes to brew, the coffee wasn’t very hot. And adding a bit of milk, as is my custom, didn’t help the temperature either.

coffee on candle warmer

Mr. HalfFull found the coffee on the candle warmer to be the most ridiculous of all my ridiculousness.

So I decided to cover the coffee while it was brewing to help retain some heat. Later, I also put the brewing coffee on my electric candle warmer. These things helped, but weren’t perfect.

The better solution was to warm the vessels — both the brewing container and the mug — with hot water. This helped retain the heat much better and actually produced a hot cup of coffee!

Lessons Learned

I learned that Mr. HalfFull thought my coffee tinkering was ridiculous. But I also learned that coffee machines are not essential.

Since temperature was the biggest flaw with my process, I decided that I want a temperature control kettle. I think this will greatly simplify and speed up my process, but still allow me to reap the taste benefits of blooming.

The other conclusion was that the reusable K-Cup filter was too small to be useful for this process. I will replace it with a French press or pour over cone.

I also learned that I can survive next time my coffee method fails me. We should all be thankful for that!

 

  • What’s your preferred coffee brewing method?
  • Did you, like Mr. HalfFull, find my coffee lab to be ridiculous?
  • Have you experimented with tools on hand when an appliance failed?

Ms. HalfEmpty

Ms. HalfEmpty is a 30-something introverted realist, perhaps a pessimist. But she's trying to see the world half full on halfempty4now.com, which she started in February 2011. Her worldview may not be all bad, as it probably helps keep her husband, Mr. HalfFull, grounded and out of trouble!

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